“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Thursday, February 5, 2009

From Russia with Lunch: A Chet Gecko Mystery • Middle-grade fiction

From Russia with Lunch: A Chet Gecko Mystery
written and illustrated by Bruce Hale
Just out! • Houghton Mifflin Books for Children • Ages 8-12
What do you get when you cross Raymond Chandler with the Marx Brothers? Chet Gecko, a wisecracking fourth-grade detective from Emerson Hicky Elementary.
Story: The 14th book in the popular mystery series begins when Chet’s favorite teacher is fired, only to be replaced by the mechanical invention of Dr. Tanya Lightov—a mysterious Russian scientist. Suddenly, the school seems possessed by forces that are upsetting the natural order of things: Kindergartners are beating up sixth graders; teachers’ pets are talking back; and worst of all, Chet’s faithful partner and best friend, Natalie Attired, has abandoned him in his hour of need. Will Chet be able to restore his friendship with Natalie and bring Emerson Hicky back to normal? One thing’s for certain: The crazy, mixed-up mastermind behind this case will be the last creature anyone expects.
Story behind the story: Where did the idea for the gecko private eye come from? "I was doing some free writing – writing without any kind of plan - and I knew I wanted to write a mystery, so I was just playing around with the detective’s narration," says Bruce Hale. "All of a sudden, it was like I could hear this voice in my head saying: 'Who am I? Chet Gecko, Private Eye. I go to fourth grade at Emerson Hicky Elementary. I’m a lizard.' I trusted the voice and went from there." Kids, teachers, and librarians have trusted it too -- this is book #14 in the popular mystery series!

Hale's website is chock-full of goodies that you and the kids will love:

• Integrate the Chet Gecko books into your classroom curriculum with the Chet Gecko Activity Booklet.

• Test your Gecko knowledge - take the Chet Gecko quiz!

• Check out detective tips from Chet Gecko’s Detective Handbook (and Cookbook) -- and the Chet Gecko Case File revealing his favorite foods, dislikes, likes, little-known facts, hobbies and more.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.


Pamela Kramer said...

From Russia With Lunch
By Bruce Hale

This book surprised me. I read it, my first Chet Gecko mystery, without having high expectations for it. A series about a gecko with a cutesy title aimed at third graders did not seem to hold much promise as a good read. I was greatly mistaken.
From Russia With Love is filled with wonderful language. As a teacher in a school where the majority of students are second language learners, I think this book is a fabulous way to introduce children to the wonders of the English language. To really explain this, I must include excerpts from the book.
First, the names of the characters are very clever: Natalie Attired, Tanya Lightov, and Pete Moss. While the students reading the book may not “get it,” the adults using it as a read aloud will certainly be entertained. Next, I have selected some parts of the book which highlight the author’s clever use of idiom and figurative language.
“The last dribbles of lunch period were leaking out, like the sauce from a Sloppy Junebug sandwich.”
“Mrs. Bagoong folder her thick arms. ‘I don’t like the crisp of her bacon.’ ‘You think she might be a few eggs short of an omelet?’ I asked.”
“The badger turned uglier than a plate of broccoli at breakfast.”
And my personal favorite: “Blue doesn’t even come close to describing my mood that afternoon. Kids sent to bed without supper are blue. I was gloom-founded, hurtin’ for certain, down in the Dumpster, majorly mope-ified.”
Taking the time to read this book with second language learners (and with native English speakers) opens up a world of idioms and common (and some not-so-common) expressions for such students. What a wonderful way to get students to want to learn the idioms—because it will help them understand the story.
And the story itself is fun. A good third grade reader will be able to understand the story, but the language will be best understood by a more mature reader. Don’t be fooled by its cover—this book will also be greatly enjoyed by fourth, fifth and even sixth graders as well.

Pamela Kramer
Reading Teacher
Highwood, Illinois

Lemon the Duck said...

I just read From Russia with Lunch and I enjoyed in thoroughly. The website enhanced the whole experience. This is the first in the Gecko Mysteries for me but I am sure to read more. As a teacher, it's a challenge to find engaging mysteries but this is a winner. The figurative language and humor is sure to be a hit and keep the reader engaged.
It lends itself nicely as a tool for exploring metaphors, similies, idioms, etc.
As an independent read, I would say this book would appeal more to lower middle or upper elementary students that have a lot of schema for figurative language.
I would rate this book a 4 out of 5

Laura Backman
Reading Specialist
Melville School

Julia Pitau said...

Not expecting too much from a Chet Gecko book, I was pleasantly surprised with the wit of the story line. It is a laugh-out-loud story I know students will enjoy checking out again and again! Older students (middle school) should be able to catch the meanings of the play on words while younger students(elementary) will be able to enjoy the mystery of this cute story. I rate this book a 4.5 because I WOULD rummage through the picnic basket to read it!

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

ahslibrarian said...

“From Russia with Lunch” is Bruce Hale’s latest entry into the Chet Gecko Mystery series. In typical Hale style the book is satirically playful drawing heavily from a deep cabinet of tastes and flavors.

As expected the book draws heavily on some “punny” stereotypes. The playfulness is rampant, yet almost exhausting in a place or two. While adults will certainly pick up on and appreciate the humor, kids may not. If they do not, the book is still well written and thought out in terms of the mystery and how it is resolved.

In Hale’s own way the book is also multicultural. He brings in characters like Wiccans that may be perceived as dangerous by some only to dismiss them and render them totally innocuous in regard to the story and its resolution. There is no question about Hales’ ability as a storyteller.

Late elementary and middle school students may enjoy the book most, but may have to be urged to remember that there is some real artistry transpiring on the pages. Add the book to your collection with confidence that some readers will find Chet Gecko irresistible just like Garrison Keillor’s listeners find Guy Noir, Private Eye indispensable.

4 out of 5

John Parker
Media Coordinator
Andrews High School
50 HS Drive
Andrews, NC 28901


Lindsay said...

I requested this book quite a while ago and have never received it. I notice that there aren't many comments regarding it...are they still sending the books out?

Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School

Martine Battista said...

With a line like this- "Library period is a cheery mountain hut on a long barefoot slog up Mount Everest that is a typical school day." - Author Bruce Hale sure knows how to endear himself to all the librarians who are carefully choosing books on a limited budget. Chet Gecko and the menagerie of characters at Emerson Hicky Elementary School are smart, funny and interesting. I can't wait to share this with students. This dame (that's what private eyes call a girl) gives it a 4!
Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

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